Need to promote careers in engineering and construction, as demand for workers outstrips supply

Need to promote careers in engineering and construction, as demand for workers outstrips supply

18 August 2014 at 12:43

There is an urgent need to promote careers in engineering and construction amongst students entering third-level courses as demand outstrips supply, according to Engineers Ireland and leading recruitment expert Hays. The comments come following the allocation of college places published today by the Central Applications Office (CAO).

Analysis carried out by Hays and Engineers Ireland has found that while there is an increased demand for engineers and other construction specialists, there is also a shortage of available and suitable candidates. Equally, the numbers pursuing construction courses at third level is insufficient to meet industry demands in the coming years.

Hays recorded a 93% increase in the number of construction and property jobs on offer during the first six months of 2014, when compared with the same period last year.

Unsurprisingly, Leinster is experiencing the greatest growth in new construction jobs with a 143% increase in those available and a 30% increase outside of Leinster. Salaries in the sector are increasing but also at a much faster rate in Dublin than is the case nationally.

According to Hays, engineering companies are currently seeking to recruit and expand their work force, with mechanical and electrical engineers/project managers particularly in demand. Recruitment by main building contractors, civil & structural consultancies and architectural firms is also beginning to pick up.

Hays also points to a shortage of particular types of candidates for construction projects and engineers at a mid-level in their careers. 

Not only is there is a shortage of suitable candidates for the positions available, but Engineers Ireland has also warned of an ongoing shortage of engineers graduates in the years ahead, despite the current strong demand for these graduates. Engineers Ireland pointed to the fact that during this academic year [2013/2014] only 62 construction engineers will graduate. This compares to several hundred in 2007.

John Power, Chartered Engineer and Director General of Engineers Ireland, stated: “For many years the numbers of students opting for civil and construction engineering careers fell significantly, which is not surprising given the collapse of the property market. At that time, many engineers in the construction sector went to work on overseas projects or moved into non-construction areas of engineering in Ireland, such as the energy and environment industry.

“According to the recent ESRI figures, we need 90,000 more homes over the next seven years or 12,500 additional houses per annum up to 2021. There will also be a significant demand for commercial property in the years ahead.

“Therefore, in the week that thousands of students will receive their CAO offers for third-level education, Engineers Ireland would encourage them to think seriously about a career in engineering and construction. Equally for students about to enter Leaving Cert year, they should explore the industry over the coming months and inform themselves on whether it is a career option for them.

“It is important that the message gets out that there are current and future job opportunities in the engineering and broader construction and property sectors,” added John.

Niall Toland, Business Director, Hays Construction & Property, noted: “Increased activity in the construction and property sector is now a reality, particularly in the Dublin and Leinster region.

“2014 has seen a major increase in construction activity within the industrial sector. There has been a lot of refurbishment and extension work carried out and the demand for commercial and residential property is now growing strongly. Ensuring that we have the qualified professionals on the ground to drive this development is just one part of the jigsaw, but a very critical one.

“Ireland needs construction professionals at all levels, from graduate engineers to senior project managers. The solution to tackling the current deficit of qualified candidates must come from multiple sources, including encouraging students to pursue careers in the industry, attracting workers back to Ireland, upskilling and retraining existing workers.

“We need a more joined up approach amongst all stakeholders – industry representatives, government, the recruitment sector and state agencies – to develop initiatives to ensure the correct balance is achieved between our construction demand and the supply of qualified professionals,” added Niall.